Karnataka's anti-corruption watchdog, or Lokayukta, long held as the model anti-corruption ombudsman, had a shattering fall from grace after Ashwin Rao, the son of the Lokayukta chief, Bhaskar Rao, was arrested for running an extortion racket from within the organisation.
Though Bhaskara Rao--appointed to the post by the BJP in 2013-- has been under pressure to quit since May, NDTV reports that he is now seeking legal opinion on whether he should--in the light of his son's arrest-- finally step down.
Ashwin is the second scalp by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in the past 24 hours. It had earlier arrested Lokayukta Joint Commissioner, Syed Riyaz, who had been the organisation's public relations officer for 18 years.
For over a year Ashwin and his compatriots, four of whom have already been arrested earlier, would use Right To Information requests to glean details about projects executed by government officers, use that to demand bribes and threaten to initiate raids.
In a timeline of events, The News Minute notes that around May, allegations began to surface that the Lokayukta establishment may have a vested interest in these 'raids.'
An engineer in Bengaluru's city corporation, Krishnamurthy, got a call from a 'Krishna Rao' on May 5 and 7, soliciting a bribe of Rs 1 crore if he wanted to "escape Lokayukta raids."
Instead of caving in, he approached Bengaluru City Lokayukta SP, Sonia Narang, who found that the calls were made to him from the Lokayukta headquarters in MS Building in Bengaluru.
She brought the matter to Lokayukta Rao's notice who ordered enquiries where it emerged that Ashwin may be involved but Bhaskara denied any explicit link.
This isn't the first time that the Lokayukta office has been under suspicion.
In September 2011, the then Lokayukta Shivraj Patil resigned after it came to light that he and his wife had illegally been allotted two residential plots in a housing colony meant for judicial employees. Patil had denied committing any illegal act.
AAP leader Ravi Krishna Reddy had then told The Hindustan Times that Rao’s appointment was “wrong”, as he too had allegedly been a beneficiary of the plots that Patil was accused of obtaining illegally.
The Karnataka Lokayukta seems to have taken a wide detour from its days when Supreme Court Justice Santosh Hegde led it and brought to book key ministers involved in illegally mining iron-ore in Bellary.